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Two Emory University students test positive for coronavirus; nursing homes asked to limit visitors

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Two Emory University students test positive for coronavirus; nursing homes asked to limit visitors

Main Quad on Emory University's primary Druid Hills Campus. Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons
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DeKalb County, GA – Two Emory University students have tested positive for coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Emory University has switched to online learning for students for the rest of the spring semester.

Emory University President Claire E. Sterk made the announcement in a letter to members of the Emory community.

“In any public health crisis, it is imperative that information be shared immediately with community members while protecting patient privacy. To follow up on that commitment, I am notifying you that the two Emory University students in undergraduate housing who were reported as being tested for possible COVID-19 on March 14 have both tested negative. The two students will remain in off-campus housing provided by the university until other arrangements can be made. A third student who lives off-campus also tested negative,” she wrote. “Also confirmed today, two undergraduate students residing at Emory Point have tested positive for COVID-19. Both students are in satisfactory condition and are self-isolating in their off-campus apartment. The two students, who were away for spring break, have not been on campus for more than a week and did not report feeling ill until they returned home from break. The students are being supported and closely monitored by Emory’s student health services staff.”

According to the most recent information from the Georgia Department of Public Health, there are 121 COVID-19 cases in Georgia, including 10 in DeKalb County. That number is likely higher but not reported yet due to limited testing.

“As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increases in Georgia and across the country, students should self-assess for fever or cough. Students who develop symptoms need to separate themselves from others and call Student Health Services at 404-727-7551 (Clifton Rd. campus), or Oxford College Student Services at 770-784-8376,” Sterk wrote. “Off campus students should contact their primary care physician if they feel sick or call 911 if their symptoms warrant emergency care.”

Emory pledged to report COVID-19 testing and outcomes among students and staff.

“I am keenly aware of the anxiety, uncertainty, and concern that so many of us are experiencing during this global public health crisis,” she wrote. “Profound disruptions to our daily lives are multiplying. In the midst of these major stressors, I encourage you to keep in mind that Emory’s commitment to the health and safety of our community is paramount. A team of representatives from emergency preparedness, health care, campus life and other units are working to protect students, faculty, staff and visitors. We also continue to partner closely with local, state, and federal agencies.”

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She thanked members of the Emory community and Emory healthcare workers.

In other news, Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Health Care Association asked assisted living and nursing home facilities to restrict visitation.

“Following the recommendations of federal and state public health officials, and in light of data revealing a high mortality rate among the elderly and chronically ill with COVID-19, we are urging long-term care facilities in the State of Georgia to restrict all visitors, volunteers, and non-essential personnel except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end-of-life situations, to protect their residents from the potential spread of the virus,” the statement from Kemp’s Office says. “These facilities should make every effort to provide alternative means of communication for family members and residents while visitation is restricted.

“We also encourage healthcare providers to avoid all group activities and communal dining; continue active screening of residents and health care personnel for respiratory symptoms, including actively checking for a fever; identify staff that work at multiple facilities and actively screen and restrict them appropriately; and enforce sick leave policies for ill health care personnel that are non-punitive, flexible, and consistent with public health policies allowing personnel who are sick to stay home.”

The World Health Organization estimates a 21.9 percent mortality rate for COVID-19 patients over 80.

The statement from the Governor’s Office says, “there is a significant risk that individuals who seem healthy could visit a facility and unintentionally endanger residents. As such, it is critical that we take these precautions to protect the frail and elderly. We ask all members of the public who have loved ones residing in a long-term care facility to remain patient. A temporary restriction on visitation is critical in the fight to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”

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